Influence of nutrition on testicular growth in Corriedale rams during spring.
The majority of seasonally breeding mammals show a seasonal pattern of prolactin secretion with peak concentrations in spring or summer and a nadir in autumn or winter. Photoperiod influences prolactin secretion via its effects on the secretion of the pineal hormone melatonin. Preliminary evidence suggests that the effects of melatonin on both prolactin and gonadotrophin secretion are via a common target area, possibly within the anterior hypothalamus, and that differences in response to photoperiod may be due to differences in the processing and/or interpretation of the melatonin signal. In contrast to seasonal gonadotrophin secretion, the seasonal changes in prolactin are not due to changes in the sensitivity of a feedback loop and so must be due to direct effects on the hypothalamic pathways that control prolactin secretion. Little else can be said with confidence about the neuroendocrine mechanisms that lead to the seasonal changes in prolactin secretion. Dopamine and noradrenaline turnover in the arcuate nucleus and median eminence decrease under short daylength. If catecholamine turnover in these structures is positively correlated with catecholamine concentrations in the long or short hypophysial portal vessels, it is unlikely that the decrease in prolactin concentration in winter is due to the effects of increased concentrations of dopamine or noradrenaline in the portal vessels. There is, however, evidence for increased pituitary sensitivity to dopamine under short daylength, so increased dopamine concentrations may not be required for suppression of prolactin secretion at this time. In addition to the diminished secretion of prolactin under short daylength, rate of prolactin synthesis and pituitary content of prolactin also decline although the mechanisms that regulate these changes are poorly understood. Although all seasonal breeders show a seasonal change in prolactin secretion, there are continuously breeding species in which prolactin secretion is also under photoperiodic control. It is likely therefore that a seasonal pattern of prolactin secretion is only evidence of neuroendocrine sensitivity to changing photoperiod. Depending upon the species, this sensitivity to the seasonal changes in daylength may or may not be accompanied by seasonal changes in a biological endpoint such as seasonal reproduction or indeed other adaptations. Whether the seasonal change in prolactin secretion is an endocrine mediator of such adaptations remains in contention. Certainly in some species this signal does have a role in reproduction. For example, in species with an obligate seasonal embryonic diapause, the seasonal increase in prolactin can act as a luteotrophin (mink and western spotted skunk) or luteostatin (Bennett's and tammar wallabies.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)